Halftime

By Aaron Ziegler
spanner@visi.com

Chapter 23: Time to Go

"There, finished!" Lucca exclaimed with satisfaction as she pounded the last nail into place.

One benefit of Lavos's demise was that all of the time Gates had reappeared in their closed, spherical form. Three of these gates had appeared right in front of Lavos's dead shell. Of these three it was known that one lead to the surface, where Dalton had had a private access to Lavos's lair (a Gate which greatly expedited the evacuation of Lavos's destroyers). It was theorized that of the other two, one led to the Millennial Fair, where Crono's mother had disappeared, and the other led to a point in midair, miles above the frozen ocean in 12,000 B.C., where Dalton had battled Frog, Ayla, and Robo for possession of the Epoch (the uncertainty as to which Gate was which made using either as a portal home rather dangerous). With the appearance of these three Gates, it was assumed that the other Gates had reappeared as well. It was finally agreed that the safest Gate to take home would be the one that had delivered Frog (most of the others were less appealing--Ayla's led to a point in midair halfway down a mountain, Magus's was located three years in the future and sixty feet underwater, and Robo's hovered over a pool at Jusenkyo). Unfortunately, according to readings that Lucca took with her Gate key, the Gates were not going to remain open much longer. A day, maybe two at most, were all that remained.

So, after Ayla bid a fond farewell to her adopted people, they had all returned to the present. Lucca had taken just long enough to reinstall the dreamstone box into the Epoch, and then had begun work on this new project, throwing furtive glances at her Gate key every now and then to make certain that the Gates were still stable. Now, it seemed, she was finished, and Nabiki wanted to know what it was. (She was slightly irritated that the project had taken away time that she had hoped to spend with her friend before she departed.) Naturally, the easiest way to find out was to ask. "So what is it?"

"Half of a teleporter," Lucca responded cheerfully, slamming a panel shut.

"A teleporter?" Nabiki asked, eyes widening. She studied the machine. It consisted of a circular base, its top plated with some sort of translucent white material criss-crossed with a grid of black lines. A rectangular column of machinery was attached to an edge of the circular base, extending up to a second circular panel about seven feet above the first. 'Geez, anyone would sell their own mother for technology like this...' Nabiki ruthlessly squelched the involuntary bout of greed. Then the second part of Lucca's statement registered. "Only half? Where's the rest?"

Lucca smiled. "Nowhere yet. I'll build it when I get back home."

"You mean-"

"Yup. We've made so many friends here, it would be way too painful to say goodbye forever." Then she grinned mischievously. "Besides, we have to come back. Crono's mom is gonna need a cure, big time. It's not going to be easy living with a woman who turns into Dalton whenever splashed with cold water! Maybe we could even give Frog a dunk in that Spring of the Drowned Man, so he could be human again, at least part of the time." Lucca glanced around with an attitude of mock conspiracy and added, "I don't think he even wants to be human again, full time. He's grown rather attached to being a frog."

Nabiki looked uncharacteristically excited. "You mean you can actually make a link between here and your world?"

"Yup, I've set up a sort of beacon at this end. All you have to do is keep the teleporter intact, and I'll be able to find it eventually. That's the hard part. I can build the machine itself in a day, but it may be difficult to find out what time period this is."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well, 1995 A.D. here could be 12,000 B.C. at home for all I know. The chronometer on the Epoch isn't any help. It was reading 2300 A.D. when we arrived here, but I have no idea what Lavos's meddling might have done to it. The important thing is that Lavos brought us through both time and space, and this teleporter only deals with space. I'll have to build the other end in the correct era if this is gonna work at all. Could take years to find." Lucca glanced off to a far corner of the yard, where Mousse was practicing the odd variety of katas that came with his unique style of martial arts. She smirked, and her glasses glinted in the sunlight. "It WILL take years to find, if I have any say in the matter."

Nabiki understood, and grinned in spite of herself at Lucca's cunning. Lucca wanted to make sure that Shampoo would be far away from Mousse for a good long while before returning. "I'll miss you, Lucca," she admitted suddenly.

Lucca nodded. "Plenty of time for good-byes later. Right now, we've gotta gather the others and get ready to go."

* * * * * *

Marle experienced a feeling of deja vu as everyone gathered around the Gate. The scene was similar to one so many weeks ago, when she, Crono, and Lucca had said goodbye to their departing friends. This time, though, she was one of the ones departing. They were all heading home to their world, if not their time. The Gate would take them to 600 A.D., Frog's home. All except for Crono, who would be taking the Epoch home instead (Lucca had assured him that Lavos's death had reinstated whatever link had diverted the Epoch here; she theorized that a trip now would, most likely, return the Epoch to 1000 A.D.). He would then be responsible for traveling back to 600 A.D. to ferry everyone else to their proper era. Really it would have been more logical for Lucca to have done the job, but she had insisted on escorting Mousse through the Gate herself. Marle giggled to herself for a moment. Lucca had found her man, and she wasn't about to let go for an instant.

Marle gazed for a moment at the people who had gathered to see them off. The Tendo's and the Saotome's were there, naturally. Cologne and Shampoo had also made an appearance, possibly to bid farewell to the departing Mousse. Of course, Ukyou wanted to be there for Magus's departure, and Ryoga wanted to be there for Robo's departure.

Then, Lucca signaled that it was time to depart. She activated her Gate key, and the spherical time Gate expanded to its flat, circular form. Frog, who was to be the first to step through (presumably to prepare the guardians of Guardia Castle for those who would follow), strode up to the Gate. He turned, and lifted a gauntleted hand in a gesture of farewell. "Farewell, my friends. It hath been a pleasure making thy acquaintance." Frog cocked an eye-ridge wryly. "I shall miss thy cooking, Kasumi." Kasumi smiled at this. Frog addressed Ranma, "Thou art a capable warrior of surpassing skill, Sir Ranma. Remain ever vigilant in thy training!"

Ranma grinned, "Thanks, Frog. Thanks to you, I know exactly what to do the next time someone tries to attack me with their tongue." Frog chuckled, and without a further word, stepped into the swirling blue portal.

Magus approached the portal, the second to depart. He had no liking for emotional farewells, and fully intended to step through without a word. Ukyou, however, had other plans. "Janus?" she called. "I hope that you find your sister."

Magus turned to her, hard eyes softening. "So do I," he answered, barely audibly. A bit more loudly, he advised, "Ukyou, do not ever surrender to obsession. It can give structure to your life, but it is a structure far too easily shattered." A bit sadly, he added, "Don't let anyone break you, Ukyou." He gazed meaningfully, and a bit harshly, at Ranma, who began to look somewhat guiltily at Ukyou. Magus stepped forward, and disappeared.

Ayla's turn was at hand. She bowed to Ranma and said, "Ayla sorry she not able help Ranma." Ayla had, during the hours that Lucca had been working on her project, finished her fight with Cologne. Unfortunately, Cologne had defeated her with fair ease, having rearmed herself and having had time to devise a new fighting strategy that took Ayla's strange pressure-point immunity into account. One did not live to be as old as Cologne without being able to adjust to new situations.

Ranma grinned at her. "That's alright, Ayla. It was worth it just to see the old troll have to push herself! Ow-!"

Cologne had rapped Ranma on the head with her staff. "Do not be impertinent," she scolded. Then she turned her attention to Ayla. "It has been a great privilege to have met with the founder of our tribe. You were the most challenging opponent that I have faced in many years."

Ayla frowned, slightly. "Age not taught Cologne honor," she noted.

Cologne's expression turned grim. "Youth taught me honor," she answered. "Age has taught me that there are some things more important than honor."

Ayla sighed. "Cologne right," she admitted, much to Ranma's surprise. "Good bye," Ayla called out. She leapt through the portal.

The next to leave was Robo. He was about to speak, when Soun suddenly threw himself to Robo's feet, wrapping his arms around Robo's legs and sobbing uncontrollably. "Don't go, Robo!" he cried. "What will we do without you?"

Nabiki rolled her eyes. "I suppose we'll just have to buy our french fries at McDonald's, just like everyone else," she answered dryly. Soun's sobbing doubled in intensity.

Robo gingerly pulled himself free of the sobbing man. The mechanical man composed himself, and once again prepared to speak. "Good bye, everyone. Ryoga, I wish you the best of luck, but luck is not what you need. Remember what we discussed: the longer that you wait, the worse off you will be."

Ryoga looked uncomfortable. Akane was looking at him with concern. "What's he talking about Ryoga?"

Ryoga turned an interesting shade of scarlet, and responded, "Um, nothing important..." He caught Robo's electronic eye, and fidgeted. "Maybe I'll tell you later," he said.

Robo spoke again, "Akane, I wish you luck as well. You can learn to cook, if you try!" Robo's voice began to take a fervent tone. "Never give up! Cook every day--every meal, if you have to! You can do it!"

Everyone but Akane was staring at Robo with abject horror.

Robo looked uncomfortable. "Er, maybe it would be best to leave, now." Robo quickly exited through the portal before anyone could work out how one might lynch a robot.

Marle approached the Gate next. She turned to face her companions, suddenly aware that she had little to say. Unlike most of the others, she hadn't formed any close attachments with any of the denizens of this world. In a way, she supposed, that was for the best. The parting would be less sad. Nevertheless, she suddenly found herself wishing that she had taken the time to get to know them better. "So long, everyone!" she called with an airy cheerfulness that she didn't really feel.

To her surprise, Nabiki responded, "Good bye, Marle. I'll never forget you. You saved my life, after all. And I never forget a debt."

Marle smiled, a bit happier. She had touched someone's life, at least. "Thanks, Nabiki." Marle stepped across the threshold between worlds.

"We're up, Moosey!" Lucca sung, gripping Mousse's arm tightly.

"Just a moment," Mousse answered. He turned to Genma. "Farewell, Shampoo. Leaving you behind is like leaving a part of my soul. I only hope that, one day, you'll recall me with fondness, and remember that I do this for you."

"Just who do you think you're talking to, boy?" Genma asked.

Lucca, somewhat reluctantly, turned Mousse to face Shampoo. "Sorry," Mousse muttered, a bit embarrassed. "I'll never forget you." Shampoo merely bit her lip, and tried not to look directly at him.

Under her breath, just loud enough for Shampoo to hear, Lucca muttered, "We'll just see about that."

Lucca released Mousse for the moment, and unabashedly hugged Nabiki. "NOW we can say good bye," Lucca grinned.

"Good bye, Lucca. I'll see you in a few years, then."

"Just keep that teleporter safe, and you will." Several pairs of eyebrows raised. Nabiki was the only one who really knew what Lucca had been working on.

Lucca grabbed Mousse's arm once more, and the two of them stepped toward the waiting Gate. Shampoo's eyes followed Mousse as he approached the Gate. Shampoo turned her eyes onto Ranma, looking for support, or even sympathy. To her chagrin, she saw that he had begun holding Akane's hand, perhaps without even knowing it. Shampoo's heart cried out once more in anguish, and she took an involuntary step forward.

"'Bye, everyone!" Lucca called cheerfully, and she and Mousse stepped through. After a few moments, the Gate, apparently deactivated by Lucca from the other side, began to close.

Shampoo's warring mind finally came to a decision. Shampoo had lost the war for Ranma's heart. She had lost to Akane. Now, she could either fulfill the Kiss of Death she had given to Akane so long ago, or she could pursue the one who had tried for so long to win her heart. Which would it be, Love or Vengeance? There was really no choice at all. "NO, MOUSSE!" Shampoo screamed, diving through the Gate just before it collapsed into its spherical form.

Everyone stared in shock at the place where Shampoo had vanished. Cologne recovered swiftly. "Oh, foolish, foolish girl!" she muttered. She glanced around, and focused on Crono, the only one yet to return home. "Boy, I will be coming with you!" Crono looked at her quizzically. A bit slyly, Cologne continued, "You don't want Shampoo to ruin your friend's chance at romance, do you?" Crono shook his head. "And I need her here. She is my heir, after all. Nabiki Tendo!" Cologne called, twisting to face the middle Tendo daughter. "Five million yen for the maintenance of the Neko Hanten until we return."

"Five million yen and eighty percent of the business profits after taxes and bills while it's under my care," Nabiki responded automatically.

"Twenty percent."

"Eighty percent," Nabiki repeated.

Cologne sighed. She really had little alternative. "Done," she answered. Cologne reached into a pocket and withdrew a scroll. "This will provide you with all that you need to know: our bank accounts, our realtor, everything. I made arrangements to prepare for sudden departures such as this. Sign here." Nabiki quickly scanned the document, always prepared for hidden clauses. It seemed legitimate. Once she signed, the Neko Hanten would essentially be hers until Cologne returned. She signed, and Cologne signed below. Without a further word, Cologne vaulted up to the cockpit of the Epoch.

Before entering, she turned and smiled wearily at Ranma. "Well, Son-in-Law--Ranma," she corrected herself. "It appears that you have won." Then her eyes glinted with promise. "But I would advise you to be safely married before we return. Otherwise, all bets are off." The ancient Amazon disappeared from view.

Crono waved a final good bye to everyone before sealing the canopy and lifting into the air. One last time, the Epoch shot off into the distance, accelerating to incredible speeds. When it had circled the globe, it vanished with a bright flash of light and a thunderous clap of sound.

For a few moments, everyone merely stood silently. Finally, Ranma spoke. "Shampoo dumped me...for Mousse?" he asked incredulously.

Nabiki and Ukyou groaned, while Akane fumed, "Ranma you jerk!" and proceeded to mash Ranma into pudding.

* * * * * *

A few months later, Nabiki was sighing happily as she reviewed her accounts. The Neko Hanten had turned out to be a real cash cow. Nabiki had been operating it for a few months, and found that she really knew how to run a business. Naturally, it didn't hurt that it was so easy to find cheap labor. Working at the Neko Hanten had become a standard method of payment for the various...favors Nabiki rendered to the students at school. Nabiki especially loved to see Kunou hard at work in the kitchen. Kunou despised the menial labor, but was willing to do anything for pictures of Akane and his Pigtailed Goddess. Even better, business tended to boom on the (frequent) occasions that Ranma owed her money. Ranma just looked so cute in that waitress's outfit!

Nabiki chuckled to herself. Yes, the Neko Hanten was a great way to line her pockets, but Nabiki was waiting for another, more profitable endeavor to...bear fruit. Oh, her Dark Fruit plant had died weeks ago, more than long enough for her to have determined that the seeds in the seven fruits it had produced were sterile. It was obvious that Magus had known. It was equally obvious that he had intended to trick her into thinking otherwise. But Nabiki was not one to be so easily fooled.

Nabiki's room now contained two new additions. One was the teleporter Lucca had created the day she left. The other was a small, powerful refrigerator. In this refrigerator, each frozen and sealed in a small black box, were thirty-two cuttings from the Dark Fruit plant. For now, Dark Fruit was a thing of the past. But in the future...

Wasn't it amazing what people could do with cloning, nowadays?

The End

Afterword:

Well, that's all folks! I can honestly say that I never expected this story to become so long (641,707 bytes as a raw text file, minus all of these Afterwords and Tips and stuff, for any who care). When I started it, I had a few basic ideas of what I wanted, a few scenes that I had worked out in my head, and an extremely rough outline. Then, as I started to write, entire chapters sprung up out of nowhere. The story branched in manners that I had never foreseen--the whole Ranma/Ranko subplot was inspired by a dream that I had, for instance. I had no idea that Miss Hinako was going to play a role in the story, but *poof* there she was. (Tragically, I had intended to include Happosai from the very beginning. I know that many prefer fanfics to be Happy-free, but in this case I needed him. Now, and always, I apologize for any gratuitous use of Happosai in any fanfic I produce. Still, it could have been worse. I had originally intended Happosai to be one of the 'heroes', and to form a Double Tech with Lucca using their respective bombing attacks. *shudder* As it turned out, Happosai was, instead, an Agent of Chaos, and filled the role rather nicely.)

In addition, I had not expected the story to change continuity in any way. Lucca's infatuation with Mousse was originally intended to be a hopeless endeavor, much like those of Mousse and Shampoo themselves. Instead, the entire China gang ended up vacating the planet, leaving the Neko Hanten in Nabiki's capable hands. Go figure. For those of you who are offended by fanfics which change Ranma continuity, I apologize, and strongly suggest that you not read 'Justice', another of my works (which really makes a hash of continuity, resolving every relationship--in one way or another). For an alternative ending, just imagine that, just before stepping through the time gate, Mousse surrenders once more to his obsession, apologizes to Lucca, and throws himself at Shampoo's feet. Shampoo, quite relieved, actually refrains from kicking Mousse into orbit, even though she still feigns indifference. Lucca observes the pathetic spectacle sadly. She has done everything she could think of short of dragging Mousse off by his hair, and is unwilling to force Mousse to abandon Shampoo. She bids Mousse a fond farewell, intending to check up on him when she finishes the teleporter. The Crono bunch all leave, and Ranma and Co. go back to their usual Zany Antics and Wacky Hijinx as though nothing happened.

Do I intend a sequel? No, not really. But stranger things have happened.

Chrono Trigger Tip #23:

Do I really only get one more question? Waaaah!

Yep, so better make it a good one.

*Sniff, Sniff* Okay, how 'bout this: You mentioned something about different endings. How do I find them?

Well, there are only a few endings that you're gonna be able to get the first time through the game. By far the easiest is simply to die any time after witnessing Lavos's destroying the planet on that visual record in 2300 A.D. The ending you get when you die displays Lavos's emergence in much greater detail.

That's not an ending!

Sure it is! Just not a good ending. As for good endings, there are really four you can get the first time through. All require destroying Lavos (in fact, every happy ending PERIOD requires Lavos's destruction). They involve Crono and the Epoch. If you destroyed Lavos without rescuing Crono, and by flying the Epoch into it, you get one ending. Rescue Crono and attack with the Epoch, and you get another. Don't rescue Crono and attack via the bucket or the Black Omen, and you get another. Rescue Crono and attack via the bucket or the Black Omen, and you get another. (Note: it doesn't change the ending, but the only way to enable the 'New Game+' option, which allows you to start a new game with characters retaining their experience and items from a previous game, is by winning via the Black Omen.)

The other endings you can find by attacking Lavos at various stages during the game (often via the bucket, long before the Black Omen has risen). The absolute quickest route to Lavos is by standing on the right pad of Lucca's teleporter at the Millennial Fair, and trying to pick up the glimmer of light there. (This, incidentally, is the only way to fight Lavos with Crono alone. With or without a mop.) It's one of the coolest endings too. I'll not describe it; you can see for yourself! Other endings can be found, for instance, by destroying Lavos before defeating Magus in his citadel, before helping Ayla to defeat the Reptites, etc. Search, and you'll find them all (I'm not sure how many there are; the numbers I have heard have varied from as few as ten to as many as fourteen). If you're too lazy to search for them all, well, I'm too lazy to write them all down. :P

Technically, of course, there are scores of possible endings, if you take really trivial details into account (number of cats, for instance, or whether or not Lucca's mother can walk). And let's not forget the subtle differences that arise if you slay Magus. Experiment! The Mindlessly Obsessive can whittle away hundreds of otherwise productive hours with no effort at all!

Previous Chapter

Halftime Page